Century-scale sequences and density-flow deltas of the late Holocene and modern Dead Sea coast, Israel

Mary Grace Moran, John Holbrook*, Nadav G. Lensky, Liran Ben Moshe, Ziv Mor, Haggai Eyal, Yehouda Enzel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Late Holocene Dead Sea rift-margin strata reveal century-scale sequences. Sequences are known to form at millennial timescales, but whether they can form at scales as short as centuries (seventh-order, sensu Vail et al., 1991) was previously unconfirmed. This study maps lithofacies and sequence-stratigraphic surfaces from a ca 35 m high outcrop of the post-1500 ad part of the Holocene falling-stage wedge, and adjacent subaerial environments, along the Nahal Darga of the western Dead Sea coast, using drone images. The study also produces the first maps of subaqueous delta environments from remotely operated vehicle photographs. Comparison of outcrop and remotely operated vehicle data show that delta foresets form by debris-flow lobes accreting onto the delta face. Debris lobes increase in size with depth, have sorted cobble heads, and stack compensationally. Debris lobes dewater to form mostly erosive turbidity currents that cut channels and obstacle scours down slope. Topsets comprising fluvial, beach-ridge and lagoonal deposits prograde over these foresets. Surfaces separating foreset and topset elements of this Gilbert-delta system bind systems tracts and record downstep and upstep of the shoreface associated with base-level rises and falls. These surfaces match known lake-level changes in the Dead Sea in magnitude, timing and direction. They confirm Medieval (ca 600 to 1300 ad) and Modern (ca 1300 ad to Modern) century-scale sequences. These microsequences form in the Dead Sea because this climate-sensitive lake can generate metres-scale lake-level cycles on century timescales, and because depositional systems can, as shown here, reestablish sufficiently rapidly (≤101 years) to record century-scale cycles with complete systems tracts. Although conditions for generating microsequences are optimal in the Dead Sea, they are not unique. These microsequences pose a challenge to sequence stratigraphy because they typically fall below seismic resolution, may geometrically resemble higher-order composite sequences and complicate defining of anchor sequences within a sequence hierarchy.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1945-1980
Number of pages36
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 International Association of Sedimentologists.


  • Debris flow
  • delta
  • high-resolution sequences
  • lake
  • rift
  • sequence stratigraphy


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